If you dedicate a large portion of your life to music as I do, you hear a lot of records. It’s quite easy to build an appreciation for tons of obscure music that ends up being lost in the shuffle of release dates and hype. Most of us separate the ones that have stood the test of time as our very favorites, while the majority of everything else gets pushed aside and forgotten. Let’s face it, most of us miss out on these lost gems because of record companies hammering shit albums down our throat, reminding us that the truly creative music is far too much of a risk for the record company executives’ commercial game. Luckily for us, other people’s lack of vision translates to a sensitive listener’s ultimate gain.
One of the best things about loving music and seeking out lost albums is that moment you hear a record for the first time and wonder how the hell it took you 30 years to hear it in the first place. No one can possibly hear everything, but sometimes I can’t help but wonder how masses of people can listen to a Duran Duran album multiple times whilst never in their life taking a moment to listen to of Pink Industry. Point being, there is always something better out there in your genre of choice just waiting to be discovered, devoured, and cherished, regardless of age or pre-conceptions.
I’ve been around a while, and heard my fair share of music. These ten albums are some fantastic examples of art going to the wayside, being left for dead and forgotten, only to be resurrected at a later date by hungry record sniffers like myself. These albums are obvious choices to me, but I’m including them because every single time I’ve mentioned these bands and albums to other music lovers, they routinely reply that they’ve never heard of them. I envy those of you who have never heard these albums and will take the time to journey down some fascinating moments in musical history.
These lost albums are all worth your valuable time and admired efforts.
MC 900 Ft. Jesus – One Step Ahead Of The Spider
The trajectory of MC 900 Ft. Jesus’ career seemed to be a good one. A very solid debut EP was followed by a rather excellent first album filled with industrial, rap, and jazz notes, which opened the door to an even more focused second effort filled with all the aforementioned qualities, but with even tighter production and vision. Three years after that second album, Mark Griffin hit us with “One Step Ahead Of The Spider”, one of the most criminally overlooked and forgotten albums of our times. There have been tales that American Records, the label this gem was released on, was going under some upheaval, and was unable and uninterested in properly promoting the record. This seeming disinterest mixed with Mark Griffin making a pointed new direction with his sound, more than likely proved to be at least some of the reason “Spider” has floundered in relative obscurity ever since. Make no mistake about it, though, this album is one of the most original, funny, moving, danceable, cerebral, and well-staged albums you’re ever likely to hear. For those of us who were listening at the time, “Spider” was a natural progression from the first two albums, and granted, most fans at the time were a bit taken aback at the new sound Griffin was cultivating. “Spider”, for the most part, lacked any industrial influences that peppered the first two records, and replaced it with spot-on jazz performances mixed with improvisational vibes. These influences existed on the first couple of releases, just not as obvious. Over the years, as I’ve listened to the album more and more, it dawns on me how far ahead of that spider Griffin really was. The guy had a vision, and the public totally missed it. This album stands at 23 years old this year, and it sounds better today than ever before. Unfortunately, Griffin became disillusioned with the music biz and never released another record after it, though he is performing live in Dallas for the first time in years this month. Mark, if you’re reading this: PLEASE make more music — the rest of us are finally catching up to the arachnid.
Pink Industry – Low Technology
As I mentioned before, I’m always slack-jawed to find out someone has never heard of this band. With all of the 80s reissues and swaying & crying hipsters out there clamoring for undiscovered new wave/post-punk goodness, the idea that this band is so little known is just a fuckin’ tragedy. Well, let’s change that. Containing roots with Big In Japan, Pink Industry only lasted a few years, but made their mark with some seriously catchy synth pop sprinkled with a little goth and punk for good measure. The end result was an irresistible hybrid between Siouxsie and The Banshees, Cocteau Twins, and Colourbox, but with more of a focus on the three-minute pop ditty. Their albums were refreshingly devoid of filler, and always inspired. “Low Technology” was their debut album, and would never be topped by their later efforts.
The 7th Plain – Playing With Fools
This is on the list simply because I can’t believe there is an unreleased Luke Slater album that exists in our world. The album is not only unreleased, but during the time period of his most impressive output. So no, I haven’t actually heard this. Who has? Will somebody please release this, for god’s sakes? A 60th repress of Fleetwood Mac’s “Rumours” just got put on shelves, meanwhile there are only 5 promo copies of a Luke Slater album? WRONG. Just WRONG.
Gene Clark – No Other
I was unfamiliar with this album until five years ago, and when I heard it I couldn’t believe I’d gone so long without it in my life. “No Other” has had a bit of a renaissance in the past five years as it got a repress on the 4 Men With Beards reissue label, and thank Christ they were good enough to do this for all of us. “No Other” is aptly titled, and might possibly be the greatest ignored record of all time. The back story to the album is part of what makes it all so fascinating: Clark spent too long recording it, drained his resources, taxed the patience of Asylum Records, and became an alcoholic when the record flopped. Part of the reason it flopped was David Geffen (then head of Asylum) had no clue how to market the thing; the album is full of non-singles and lyrics so emotional it could make a bear cry. The sad reality is “No Other” was released and forgotten on the spot. As one listens to it now, it’s simply breathtaking how deep and well-executed this album is. Perfect in every way, it employs country, psych-rock, pop, rock, soul, and more than anything else, unbridled honesty. Clark displayed his innards like no other performer, and bled for his art on every last note. When Clark sings “born from pleasure, and chiseled by pain”, there isn’t a dry eye in the house, and if yours are dry, you should check the status of your humanity card, because it might be expired. Any human who has ever gone through pain, grief, or loss will find much to adore about “No Other”.
Angel City – Darkroom
Popular in Australia, yet little-known overseas, this 1980 release from Angel City (The Angels in their native country) was a blazingly powerful exercise that bridged the gap between classic power rock and punk propelled energy. Plenty of 80s rock bands like Guns N’ Roses cited them as a huge influence, and you can hear where that appreciation rubs off. The production on this album is so sparse and dry it sounds like they’re right there in the room with you, ready to crawl out of the speakers and shake the living shit out of you.
Howie B. – Music For Babies
One of many overlooked ambient albums from the 90s, Howie B was able to wrangle in all of the many genres he dabbled with, and condense it all into one glorious 45 minute listening experience. As tense and serious as a lot of ambient music can be, “Babies” uses a very playful underlying tone rather than a sinister one. Ominous synths and distant broken beats are underscored by bouncing melodies and hard-as-fuck bass lines. It’s an album that keeps you uneasy as to what is coming next, but never ceases to let go of its playground atmosphere. Howie B produced some stunning material in his day, and “Music For Babies” is at the top of the list.
A.R. & Machines – Die Grüne Reise – The Green Journey
I could spend months writing about obscure Krautrock oddities (and many authors have), but today I will add this one to the list. A.R. & Machines have enjoyed some more popularity in the past few years due to a few reissues, but the vast majority have not yet been acquainted with this album’s unusual genius. The bizarre album cover is an accurate visual gateway into the weirdness of what the music here represents which seems to be an undying dedication to finding new paths in musical approach. From tracks that focus on several minutes of disembodied voices to five minute psych jams, Die Grüne Reise – The Green Journey will remind you that no matter how many new psychedelic records you hear, someone else was doing it far better many years ago.
Tim Maia – Racional Vol. 1
Tim Maia was definitely a character, and it’s certainly worth Googling his biography to learn who he was as an individual. That aside, his music was life-changing. Scarcely making it’s way out of his native Brazil in the 70s, Maia’s music touched on jazz, funk, rock, soul, disco, and anything else that struck his fancy. He had a tendency to revel in deeply religious overtones, but even the most hardened atheist can find reason to celebrate the concrete grooves and raw funk he created at whim. “Racional” is arguably his best work, covering all his musical bases while proselytizing his message, all while sounding 100% honest. Whether you believe in his ramblings or not, the musical sincerity will transport you well beyond what words can distract with.
Justin Warfield – My Field Trip To Planet 9
Lost amidst many more direct hip hop releases of the 90s, “Field Trip” could be best classified as an album that simply came out at the wrong time. Its message was very appropriate during the early 90s as the entirety of the album was more or less a love letter to drug culture and the effects it had on music and rave culture of the day. But rather than exhibit four to the floor beats, Warfield used his skills to translate a hip hop version of the post-rave come down, incorporating a laser-like focus to a tripped out vibe. He brought in dance floor heavyweights like the Chemical Brothers and David Holmes to do remixes, but the magic was on the album itself. With seamless transitions, spot-on vocals, and creative sampling, Warfield delivered one of the great overlooked hip hop albums of the 90s in style.
Rei Harakami – Lust
Hidden away as a limited Japanese CD-only release in 2005, Rei Harakami quietly unleashed one of the most intricately-produced electronic albums the world has seen. Why “Lust” has only existed in Japan is beyond what I can process, but those of you who take the time to research and find a copy will only be repaid in rewards difficult to describe. While the music is essentially house, it takes on new life as the synths and pads work around themselves, intertwining and creating something entirely new. With alien melodies expertly mixed over the top, the end result sounds like some secret unknown language that machines have created to communicate with each other. I consider myself very lucky to have had this in my life for over ten years now, and I can’t recommend an album highly enough. It was recently re-pressed to vinyl back in November, and I want one. Seriously. If someone can hook me up with a copy of this gem, I’ll do borderline embarrassing things to get my hands on one if that’s your bag.